The Power of “Burying the Hatchet”

According to the History Extra website a BBC affiliated website, “The “Burying the Hatchet” expression comes from a centuries-old practice involving the literal burying of a hatchet, seen among the Native American tribes of North America. Chiefs would meet and bury their weapons as a symbolic gesture of peace.

Today, ‘burying the hatchet’ stands for settling an old score, resolving an argument or making peace with a former enemy.”

In the recent past, a former adversary unexpectedly reached out and taught me the value of “Burying the Hatchet”.

I like to think my life has not been that combative, and I try to get along with people but there have been a few big moments.

Over 30 years ago I was involved in a very tough family law issue. This was ugly and emotions ran very high because children were involved. To make a long story short, I was not pleased with the outcome and my legal counsel was not pleased with me. This resulted in lawsuits and counter law suites. We even had a (according to my wife) very hostile encounter at a local restaurant. While the case was finally settled, I was certain that we would not every speak again.   To be concise, we did not like each other; at all.

Sometime last year, I received an email from this person. When I saw the name on the email I was certain this was not going to be pleasant. He shocked me by saying he had been reading about our pilgrimage across Spain and decided to reach out with kind words. But, at the end of the email he asked for my address because he wanted to mail me a newspaper article about a hike somewhere. My first response was, are you kidding? Give this guy my address? Why in the world, out of the blue, would he contact me and want my home address? Will it be safe to open my mail?

The more I thought about it; his words were non-threatening and very kind. I shared this with my wife and she responded, “Don’t be so paranoid, he is not going to do anything bad, give him our address”. So, I relented and sent him the information.

Well in a few days, a manila envelope showed up. I must admit when a package shows up with a lawyers return address, it does initially give you a pause. But when I opened it he actually sent me a newspaper article about a hiking trail in California that included a inspirational message about the person who hiked the trail. In fact, if memory serves me, he also sent me an article about a long hike in Scotland. This planted a seed for our walk across Scotland this year.

He then contacted me again and suggested we meet for lunch. Lunch? After a few days, I thought this could be interesting . But as the day arrived, I was a bit apprehensive. What are we going to talk about? Is this going to be awkward? Will our past differences be a problem?

At the agreed upon time, he showed up with his law partner with a big smile and a friendly hand shake. When we sat down, after a few pleasantries, we broke out into a full bore conversation talking about most everything. We even shared a few laughs about stories from our disagreement. From this we connected by learning more about each other’s life. For a moment, I wondered if I was dreaming, breaking bread and laughing with a longtime adversary. But this was not a dream and it felt really good.

This meeting went so well, I have again met for lunch with Bill and more of his law partners. We laughed and talked and even planned to make this lunch meeting a reoccurring habit. From this I have learned a very big lesson. Life is so much better when you are at peace in all aspects of life.  Bill has taught me that settling differences, is one more brick in the wall in the pursuit of happiness. This was really a magic moment.

I urge you to try this, grab a family member or friend, or go solo, get out and go for a walk and talk about someone, somewhere where you can “Bury the Hatchet”. It just might be magic for both sides. Are you in?

Gregg Patterson

©Copyright August 2016


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